|Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2: Teaching Practice - Experience of Trainees (CIE, 2000, 54 p.)|
|Chapter 4: Teaching Practice - Second Round|
Most trainees agreed that they felt better prepared for the second teaching practice, in terms of their unit and lesson planning. They felt that this time around, they knew what to expect, and they could reflect on lessons learned on the first teaching practice round, and try to avoid previous mistakes. A number of trainees commented, however, on the fact that they still felt inadequately prepared to meet the requirements for teaching at all different levels of the primary school. Some trainees felt that not enough classes were devoted to methods appropriate to teaching at specific levels. In such a situation, they fell back on their experiences at the primary schools were they taught before coming to the Teachers' College, or conferred with their cooperating teachers, with senior students at the Teachers' College, or with friends who had recently completed the programme.
One comment made by different trainees was that they felt that too much time was spent on coverage of unnecessary content at the Colleges, to the neglect of areas that trainees felt would be more helpful to them in the classroom. One noted, for example, that he felt a lot of time was spent on facts like where Piaget lived, and his family life, that would have been better employed in doing things like having lecturers demonstrate strategies, or on aspects of theory that were more directly relevant to their classroom practice.
Trainees resorted to different strategies to deal with the teaching practice. Some trainees described how their entire group prepared units in common, and then adapted ideas to meet the needs of specific groups of pupils. They also shared notes on comments made by their supervisors during the first teaching practice round. Some went to senior students for advice, and for units. Supervisors indicated that they were aware that some trainees were buying units and using them, with greater or lesser degrees of understanding. Though trainees generally didn't admit that this was so, a few did indeed admit that there was fraudulence. Other trainees referred to resorting to plans and notes lodged in the College library at Corinth.
Even though they may have felt better prepared generally for the unit and lesson planning aspects of the programme, however, all the trainees agreed that the experience was extremely stressful; some trainees, in fact, said that they found it even more stressful than the first teaching practice session. Sources of stress identified by trainees included the fact that it was physically tiring, especially for those trainees on whom the entire workload of the class to which they were assigned fell, in situations where the class teacher was absent. Trainees said they also found the session emotionally stressful, because they were always aware that they were being graded. One trainee said that whenever she saw her supervisor appear, she would think, Oh God! Well he's here!
Trainees worried about their pupils' behaviour as well as their own performance. For one thing, they generally tried to establish an agreement with their pupils that they should be on their best behaviour when the supervisor visited. Cooperating teachers often helped to reinforce this. In addition, trainees felt keenly aware that however well they may have taught generally, their performance on the lessons supervisors saw would largely determine how they were assessed. Trainees were also concerned about the unevenness of the experience for different individuals. They pointed out that some supervisors saw trainees several times, while others saw them only once or twice. They felt that this difference had implications for how much guidance they received, and how fairly they were assessed.
Some trainees also coped by adapting the lessons their supervisors would observe, so they would be in tune with what trainees perceived supervisors wanted, even if they felt that their creativity was impaired when they did this. One trainee noted that he would never try unusual things when his supervisor was present. He would wait until the supervisor wasn't there, and try them then, to see how well they worked. At such times he would ask his cooperating teacher, who was very helpful, to give her comments. In cases where trainees' cooperating teachers were absent, trainees would use their own judgment in deciding how effective the new strategy was.
A significant aspect of trainees' development of strategies to negotiate the challenges of the teaching practice entailed finding ways to read what their supervisors wanted. They shared their experiences with supervisors with each other, they shared documents that provided indications of how supervisors assessed aspects of their performance, and they devoted conscious effort during the teaching practice to interpreting what each supervisor expected. As one trainee commented, It's a straightforward case of, I am here to get a Diploma. So I will decide what Mr. X (the supervisor) is looking for, and I will give him that.
Trainees expressed concern about the fairness of the assessment by supervisors. Some complained that unit plans that had been given a Grade A by one supervisor might be assessed and given a Grade C by another. They indicated that there was some discussion among trainees about how this demonstrated the subjectivity involved in assessment practices, and that they wondered to what extent this subjectivity persisted in other areas of performance on which they were being assessed.
It is possible - though no trainee admitted to deliberate absenteeism - that instances of absenteeism and unpunctuality discerned by supervisors, cooperating teachers, and researchers alike also constituted another attempt to cope with the stress of the situation, in a context where trainees now knew, from their previous experience with teaching practice, how much leeway they had when they were out in the schools.